Today, Microsoft announced their Surface Pro 3 tablet. The tablet is thin, weighs very little, has a great aspect ratio (reminiscent of previous tablets with an aspect ratio suitable for documents in portrait mode), has a great resolution (2160x1440 in a 12 inch display), proper battery, good stand, docking station, etc. For most of the presentation I was pleased to hear Microsoft's emphasis on aiming the tablet towards those who create content. As the pre-order time went up I chose NOT to order one. This tablet has two main drawbacks.
First, Microsoft's website never specifies what Core i7 you are getting--thus I don't know if I'll have more computing power when compared to other tablets/laptops. For those interested in doing 3D work you are unlikely to do that well with integrated graphics alone, so you are better off waiting for a future version of Wacom Companion or perhaps a gaming company, like Razer, launches a powerful tablet with discrete graphics GPU (their Razer Edge Pro is way overdue a refresh). Sony does have an Nvidia GeForce GT 735M in their Sony VAIO Flip 15. So, perhaps we can say that the MS Surface Pro 3 is suitable for content creators such as writers, some image editing, 2D art (such as painting in Photoshop/Sketchbook/SAI/etc--although the processing is there the pen might be a concern for artists), and perhaps HD video editing, but not so much for high poly-count 3D modelling, game developers, and definitely not the hard core 3D-performance demanding gamer.
Second, and most importantly for note-takers and artists, the digitizer is based on N-Trig DuoSense Pen 2 technology. This is certainly a deal-breaker for many people.
So why is N-Trig 2 a problem?
First, we have to admit that N-Trig 2 is better than N-Trig 1. I have utilized N-Trig 1 on a Fujitsu LifeBook T580 tablet, and HTC Flyer. In the case of N-Trig 2, I have used it with a Sony VAIO Flip 14. The difference between N-Trig 1 and 2 are quite dramatic, the pen does deliver smoother line quality, is very precise, and is less noisy (N-Trig 1 was similar to a user tapping a glass surface with an ink pen's tip--which was hideous to work with). However, I feel that Wacom systems, based on my experiences with Wacom Penabled (X230T and DTU-1031, Series 7 Slate) and Wacom Grip pen, is superior to what N-Trig 2 has to offer. Wacom's "reaction time" is sufficient for tasks like note-taking (math and quick short strokes of the pen), and N-Trig 2 is just not capable of dealing efficiently with those rapid short-stroke pen movements. Also, keep in mind that N-Trig 2 has 256 levels of pressure, but Wacom's latest technology, as seen in Wacom Companion and tablets such as the Intuos Pro Pen & Touch (which I have the small version next to me) is 2048 levels of pressure. If I demonstrate a 256 level of pressure system and a 512 level of pressure system, which I have done here, the line quality difference is quite dramatic--the difference between a 256 and a 2048 would be substantial. I fear that N-Trig 2's pressure levels, even with the software smoothing things out, will not be enough to satisfy those who have experienced the silky smooth experience of Wacom's 2048 pressure levels.
For those curious, N-Trig pens can be recognized by:
- There is a battery present, often a small AAAA battery.
- Wacom does not use batteries in their pens--they use EMR (Electro-Magnetic Resonance).
- Cylindrical body usually made of a metal like aluminum.
- The single or two side-buttons are ellipse like and their top surface tends to remain close to the cylindrical body.
- Wacom buttons usually "pop" out of the body of the pen and are more rectangular.
- Usually comes in two diameters: 9.5 mm (DS-Pen2095), or 5.5mm (DS-Pen2055).
- If I recall, N-Trig 1 did not use Bluetooth, but N-Trig 2 does.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 pen is a rebranded N-Trig 2 pen. The main difference of the Surface Pen is the purple eraser on the back side.
Classic N-Trig side buttons.
The Sony VAIO Active Pen is a rebranded N-Trig 2 pen.
Sony VAIO Duo 11 Pen is a rebranded N-Trig 2 pen.
Most artist, that I have heard on YouTube channels, are used to and prefer to work with Wacom technology. The pen above is the Wacom Grip Pen--no battery replacement is needed, it has better nibs, and often times the pen is more comfortable to hold.
- N-Trig DuoSense Pen 2 website.
- MS Surface Pro 3 pen website.
- Surface Pro Artist
- Sony VAIO Active Pen website.
- Sony VAIO DUO 11 Pen website.
- Wacom Grip Pen website.
By the way, whoever wrote the title of the article "Surface Pro 3 ditches Wacom for a better N-trig pen" did a great job choosing the title. They are likely to have used the word "better" because they are attention whores that need web-traffic. I'm sure artists will be able to rectify whether "better" is an accurate word to describe N-Trig pen when compared to Wacom.
N-Trig DuoSense2 Active Pens